Pediatric pneumonology - Further information
What is pediatric pneumonology?
Basically, pneumonology covers the whole respiratory system. The airways also include the area of the sinus cavities, the larynx (voice box) and the trachea (windpipe). However, in lung or pulmonary medicine the focus is mainly on the bronchial tubes, the mediastinum and the pleura, which surrounds the lungs. Naturally, lung disorders are themselves part of pneumonology. The causes and also the symptoms of lung diseases in newborn babies, children and adolescents differ from those in adults. Therefore, pediatric lung medicine deals explicitly with disorders of the airways and respiration in children.
What is a pediatric pneumonologist?
Pediatric pneumonology is a key consideration in child medicine. A pediatric pneumonologist is therefore a doctor who, apart from the specialist training as a pediatrician, has also followed a three-year further training course in pediatric pneumonology.
These disorders are treated by pediatric pneumonologists
The commonest lung disorder in childhood is bronchial asthma. This is a chronic disorder of the airways which is expressed mainly as sporadic breathlessness with difficulties in breathing out.
A pediatric pneumonologist also treats recurring bronchial inflammations and pneumonia and chronic lung diseases which frequently appear after a premature birth.
A pediatric pneumonologist is also the right specialist for the following diseases:
- congenital lung disorders and/or disorders of the other airways
- breath regulation disorders such as apnea syndrome
- obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS)
- disorders which affect the interstitial tissue of the lungs (e.g. sarcoidosis or atypical lung inflammation)
Diagnostic techniques in pediatric pneumonology
First of all, the pediatric pneumonologist asks the little patient for precise details of their symptoms. After that, there is a physical examination. An important part of the diagnosis is auscultation.
In auscultation, the doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to the sounds issuing from the lungs and adjacent tissue. In this way, the doctor observes signs of a possible closure in the airways, of any overinflation of the lungs or inflammation.
To check lung function, the pediatric pneumonologist will also perform spirometry or body plethysmography - a means of measuring lung volume. In spirometry, a special device measures lung or breath volume and the speed of breath flow. In body plethysmography the breathing resistance or total lung capacity is also determined.
Pulsoxymetry gives information on oxygen saturation in blood. In some lung conditions, a decrease in the oxygen content in blood also occurs.
A further examination procedure is bronchoscopy. Here, the doctor sedates the little patient and then inserts an endoscope into the airways via the mouth or nose. Using a camera, he can then observe the bronchial tubes and the lungs.
The treatment of lung conditions in children
The treatment depends mainly on the type of condition. If the breathing condition is due to a foreign body breathed in by the patient, the doctor can remove it straightaway by using bronchoscopy.
If the condition is a bacterial lung inflammation, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics. However, if the inflammation is caused by viruses, antibiotics will not help. To prevent a bacterial infection known as a superinfection, children are still frequently given antibiotic medication.
Some lung conditions cannot be treated causally. The aim here is not to cure the condition, but mainly to alleviate the symptoms. For example, patients with mucoviscidosis will receive solvents (medication to break down the mucus).
Children are not small adults and so are in good hands if their diseases of the airways and lungs are treated by a specialist in pediatric pneumonology. This specialist can use the right methods to arrive at a diagnosis and then quickly start the appropriate treatment.